Poetry | Jim Lloyd

The Long Stone Row

a track
barely perceptible at distance
disappears close up
some trodden grass here
occasionally a boot print I follow
it seems slightly more inviting than following
a compass bearing over heather
and moor grass and reeds and the
ever green sphagnum moss
of the mires
and black peat
               oily wet black peat –

and so you walk on
what is there apart from this faint way
there are no curlews crying out in their loneliness
no grouse
no ring ouzels
I see no animals
nothing moves
except in the distance far off
a few huddles of warm brown cows
               splodging in the heavy peat –

brown-grey sea-land
meeting grey, grey sky
at some indeterminate point –
and we keep on walking
looking for something
to release the monotony
the monochrome –
then a cross
then a long-stone
and a cairn
a presence
               just a presence of stone

measured against my height
slightly taller
dark granite
like the obelisk in 2001 mysterious
like green-black warm ice
wet and smooth
to touch     layers of grey lichen
always wet

absorbing the moor mist
and the moor monochrome
then another stone and another smaller
but continuing
stone after stone
               step after step in a long, long line

who put these here
this stone row
               what magical significance

and circle
               site for druid sacrifice –

stone after stone after
step after step to the end stone
than the rest
ice black as before looming up
a bird look-out post
a crow
maybe or a hawk
slim pickings on this moor
               hunting in this desert –

and nearby towards the low ridge
               are the scars of the tin workings –

and I am thinking of what I will say to you
where I have been
and I wondered if you
have been here –
you have been to places like this I know
but this place specifically –
did you trudge across this featureless moor
to these specific stones
               or are your Dartmoor stones imagined
                               or imaginary

past the pool which isn’t always there
on a compass bearing
a mist hangs
just below the horizon
a line of stones
although it seems to me that it isn’t precisely
a straight line
they seem to be in gentle sympathy
with the soft contours of the land rather
than a strict imposition of line although
               I am not sure why

maybe suitable sizes and shapes were
               selected from the clitter surrounding the nearby tor

not sure why they are here
for us
just landmarks
stopping places
features in a featureless land
               maybe that’s all they ever were

and in my mind, I say to you
or maybe I don’t say to you but
I try to store some memory of the place to tell you later
or maybe I am just being

I think I will tell you
               where we walked:

by the ruins of Drizzlecombe farm up onto Down Tor
and by the pool which isn’t always there
by the stone circle and the long stone row
to a large cairn and then onwards
on a compass bearing or following a faint track
which can be seen in the distance but close up
all one can see is the occasional boot print
and heather broken and trampled occasionally
and maybe a patch of gravel
(is this a path or a sheep track)
               but it looks more inviting than the open moor –

and I can see Nun’s Cross and
Nun’s Cross Farm coming into view
and another cross
               near a leat

and I remember this is near Childe’s Tomb
not a child’s tomb, but a man called Childe –
he got caught out in a snowstorm
on the moor – allegedly
and had to stop
his horse would not go on
he sheltered by his horse –
and his horse died
now – this seems improbable, but
he cut open his horse and got inside
               for shelter

but this wasn’t very good
and he left a note to say
that whoever found his body
and carried it
to give it a good Christian burial
would inherit his riches –
and the monks
walking on the Abbotts’ Way
between Buckfastleigh and Tavistock Abbeys
found him
and carried his body
and gave him a good burial
and inherited his money –
did you know that story?
do you think it’s true? –
as you are not here
who shall I tell my story to –
we used to tell stories to each other
               not much –

camping by stones
cooking on a stove –
               of course there are parts I didn’t tell you

you would say
where did you get to on the moors
and I would say
beyond the ruins of Drizzlecombe Farm
being unbuilt stone by stone
by nettle and willow herb
moss and bramble
heavy snow on the timbers
and sun split in the summer
frost split in the winter
low walls muffled –
beyond there
past the pool which isn’t always there
looking for a track
barely perceptible
some trodden grass
occasionally a boot print
in peat follow
it seems slightly more inviting than a compass bearing across the blank moor
over the heather and moor grass and reeds
and astonishingly green sphagnum moss
and oily black peat
               oily wet black peat –

and so we walked on

what is there apart from this faint way
no curlews crying in their loneliness
nothing moves
               except for a few slow cows in a huddle –

you would have said
– or I imagine you would have said
where did you get to on the moors
and I would say – so far
and you would have said
               – why not further –

stone grinding over stone
beyond the pool that has no name
still water in hollows
by the stars
and moon
and sun

before words were written they were uttered
               before uttered words     stone and water

and I followed bleached bone-white, star-white, broken stems

as I walked, I rehearsed my answers to
questions that will not now be asked –
where did you get to on the moors
and it gives me a strange sensation
a feeling like déjà vu
having been here before except I have
been here before
but never before
have I been here without being
able to tell you
and without you being able
or trying
       to go one better
               with your tales

Dartmoor monoprints by Jim Lloyd

Jim Lloyd lives in Hexham, Northumberland and is a winner in the Rialto Nature and Place poetry competition. He is studying for an arts practice-based PhD at Newcastle University considering the question ‘what is it like to be a bird?’. He utilizes a range of methods including writing, video and sound recording. He has made a device to translate birdsong into human language.

Website: www.jamesjosephlloyd.com

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